The smell of wood being sanded wafts through the air in building H2 at Foothill High School. And the sound of high powered machines being used adds to the dramatic scene. 

This isn't your regular classroom setting. 

Students are wearing protective goggles. They stand in front of band saws, cutting out wood designs. They make their way around the wood shop like experts. It's almost like a dance—where you might end up covered in sawdust. 

But the messy dust is worth it—as long as you remember not to wear black. 

As 16-year-old Magie Carriedo said— while she plied two pieces of wood together for her monster truck project— the choice to build something herself will always beat having someone else do it for her.

"My first elective choice was going to be art but I actually wanted to build stuff and not depend on someone else to do something for me," Carriedo said.

As a girl in wood shop class, Carriedo said she initially felt intimidated in a "boys type of class" but when she saw other females in the class, it eased her nerves. 

Matthew Barrett, the wood shop teacher, said between his six classes, girls make up 25 to 50 percent of the overall number of students.

In a classroom like this, where it's 99 percent hands-on, everyone starts off at the same level. Most students have never worked with professional wood cutting machines. Some have done a few projects around the house. But never using big machines.

For Edward Hurd, 16, being in wood shop class was an elective he was looking forward to since he started high school. He even took a PE class last summer in order to fit wood shop into his schedule this semester. 

"I like working with my hands," Hurd said, holding a heart shaped box he had just finished building. "I had helped my grandpa on small things around the house but I had never sanded things or cut things."

The skills these high school students are learning in this class go far beyond knowing how to build a bread box or a stool. 

They are using math to figure out the correct measurements for building a sturdy monster truck that rolls forward. They are communicating with each other, helping one another when an extra hand is needed to sand corners of wood. When Barrett announces it's clean up time, they all grab a broom or duster and clean the area. 

It's those hidden skills that could give students an advantage after they graduate high school. 

"The skills they are learning are skills they can use in a real world job," Barrett said. 

The Wood 3 and 4 combined class is currently building cabinets for a local church. They have helped build a Habitat for Humanity house in the past. 

Students in the higher level wood shop classes are working with nearly $3 million dollar machines, thanks to local shops like Skyline Cabinet and Millworks and California Custom Laminate, Inc.

"These kids can join an industry and know how to use these machines," Barrett noted. 

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